Women in senior leadership. Increasingly, it matters.

It’s 2022, not 1972, but businesswomen are still not found in senior leadership positions in the numbers that, 50 years ago, might have been anticipated for the third decade of the 21st century.

As we approach International Women’s Day on 8th March, it’s time to reflect on the story behind these statistics, and question what it means for Australian business success.

The gender gap in leadership

The most recent gender equality scorecard, published annually by the government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), indicates that women comprise 51% of the Australian workforce, but represent only:

  • 34.5% of key management positions
  • 32.5% of directors
  • 19.4% of CEOs
  • 18% of board chairs

But in the end, does it matter?

It matters, of course, to those women who are untrained, unnurtured or simply overlooked for promotion. It matters that a huge source of talent is left untapped. However, setting aside any question of empathy and sentiment, does it matter for the economy and for business profitability?

The short answer is yes, undeniably.

The qualities women bring to leadership roles

While both men and women as individuals may have particular qualities that equip them for leadership, women in general can add more diversity, inclusivity and emotional intelligence to your team.


It’s now widely accepted that employee diversity, especially at the decision-making level, leads to greater innovation and creativity, and delivers access to a wider range of skills and perspectives. Boosting women’s leadership roles is an obvious way to access diversity as well as expanding the available talent pool. Diverse leadership teams are less likely to succumb to groupthink and better equipped to recognise threats to the organisation’s business model. 


Promoting women leaders helps to develop an inclusive culture in the workplace, boosting morale and improving employee retention, especially among women who see that there are advancement opportunities available to them. A gender-inclusive workplace may also be a better reflection of a company’s customer base and female purchasing power, while at the same time enhancing its reputation.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, sometimes referred to as EQ or Emotional Quotient, can function differently in women. According to Dr Shawn Andrews (university business school professor and author of The Power of Perception: Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and the Gender Divide), women in general score higher than men in the spheres of empathy, interpersonal relationships, collaboration, communication, supportiveness and social responsibility, while men exhibit higher levels of assertiveness, stress tolerance and self-confidence.

Many of the facets of women’s EQ are the very qualities that are becoming increasingly sought after in today’s business leaders. 

How women’s leadership contributes to business success 

The argument for increasing women’s leadership roles is also founded on powerful economic evidence.

Research conducted by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre in conjunction with the WGEA reveals that:

  • When female representation on boards increases by 10 percentage points or more, the company’s market value increases by an average of 4.9%.
  • Given the same increase in women on boards, the likelihood of a business outperforming its competitors increases by 6%.
  • A female CEO appointment leads to a 12.9% increase in the likelihood of outperforming competitors.
  • A female key management personnel increase of 10 percentage points or more leads to a likely 5.8% increase in outperformance.

This phenomenon is not confined to Australia. Studies in the US and UK report similar findings.

Learn more about Bentleys’ women in senior leadership

At Bentleys, we’re proud to support women in senior leadership. The representatives of our women’s team listed on this page are professionals who model the qualities that drive change – both at Bentleys and in the broader business community. Reach out to them if you would like some insights on their leadership journey.
Want advice on strengthening leadership capability in your business? Our Business Mentoring and Advisory teams are ready to discuss how we can help you transform your business and reap the rewards in business success. Contact us today for a no-obligation discussion. We can help you get where you want to be.

Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and should not be relied on as advice. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs and seek professional advice before making any decisions based on this information.

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